The Harmful Impact of Grammar Policing

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Feb 23 2021

I greatly dislike grammar policing. Actually, I hate it. I hate when people do it to me and I hate seeing people do it to others. It’s so unnecessary and, frankly, harmful.

Years of writing this blog I’ve been thoroughly policed. The GP has come after me in the comments, on Twitter and even through email. They love telling me about typos, spelling errors and missed commas. I do honestly believe some have good intentions. They want to make sure I’m not embarrassed by what I’ve done. I’m not.

Most however, aren’t so well intentioned. Most grammar policing is done as a way to either one-up someone, or silence them.

If I disagree with your message, but don’t want to engage in a conversation about it, I can just criticize your grammar. Over time, maybe, you’ll just keep your mouth shut. That’s fun isn’t it.

Silently correct grammar all you want. Teach your children the grammar you want them to speak, but leave the rest of us alone.

This blog is about getting a message to authors. It’s about empowering them with knowledge of publishing and writing and the business they want to be in or are a part of. Sure, as an agent I should have a solid understanding of writing and editing, but I miss things. We all do. It’s okay, because it’s the message that counts.

11 responses to “The Harmful Impact of Grammar Policing”

  1. Avatar Javier says:

    Ok. Tell the truth. How many times did you check this one for errors? I´m kidding! 😀

    • Honestly, no more than my usual quick read-through. Long ago I accepted my grammar weakenesses.

      • Avatar Zeeshan Khan says:

        Well, this policing problem is way too much where I am from. It’s more of a ‘Perfectionist” approach and every imperfect ones tends or pretends to be the one. Not a question of willingly or unwillingly, but it’s a matter of prove me wrong. Confidence destroyer at most such policing. Especially in a race where people hanging on the thread of survival longing for a breakthrough – this policing takes one down into trenches and only the willing ones – those are rare breed, gets back up and catch the thread again.

        I am delighted to read this blog because no one is courageous enough to stand against it, yet behind closed doors everyone talks about it – in silence, in the corners and specially in the room room where ‘self’ is present.

      • Avatar GrammarGeorge says:


  2. Avatar Brenda Haas says:

    Love this. I am all for presenting my best work and try my best, but no one is perfect. Those of us who are querying have a LOT to get right;) Thanks for being human.

  3. Avatar Lindsey Godfrey Eccles says:

    I agree with this from the bottom of my soul.

  4. Avatar Mike E says:

    I agree with you, Jessica. Would the same be true if you are querying and there is a misspelled word in the submitted chapters? We try to make the pages perfect, but our brain sees it correctly and our eyes miss it.

    • I’m very forgiving of typos and misspellings. There is a difference between a typo and a consistent problem. Any agent should be able to tell the difference.

      • Avatar D. Y. says:

        There is a difference between a typo and a consistent problem. — And yet somehow most grammar police seem to focus on the former. I’ve seen some atrocious examples of the latter (page or longer paragraphs with no punctuation – cringes), but somehow that’s not the stuff grammar police focus on. Why?

  5. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    I must be blind. I’ve been reading your blog for years and I don’t seem to notice the mistakes. It’s the content, not the grammar that matters. Some people must have way to much time on their hands!

  6. Avatar Kim Beall says:

    The only time poor grammar bothers me is when people who get PAID to write (journalists, ad copy writers, technical writers, etc.) consistently make mistakes I learned not to make in fourth grade. But for regular people just trying to have a conversation (whether in person or on social media) it’s the message that matters, not the grammar. Not everyone can have strong grammar skills, just as not everyone can have strong math skills (it me!) and that’s fine.